Wisconsin state Sen. Leah Vukmir nabbed the endorsement of the state GOP convention on Saturday, giving her Senate primary campaign a boost.
Vukmir eclipsed the 60 percent threshold of convention delegates needed to secure the endorsement over Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson with 72 percent of the vote.
The victory does not secure her the GOP nomination, which will be decided by voters in August. But it gives her access to key party infrastructure — a boon in a state that has one of the more robust grass-roots operations — and it also serves as a useful fundraising and organizing tool.
“I want you to know that I take this very seriously, and I will represent your endorsement with the utmost of integrity,” Vukmir said upon securing the nomination. “I will represent you, and I will represent the Wisconsin way. You can count on me as I’ve always done to fight for you and our conservative principles.
“Let’s tell [Sen.] Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden launches program to turn out LGBTQ vote We need a ‘9-1-1’ for mental health — we need ‘9-8-8’ Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump’s power under Insurrection Act MORE [D] it’s time for her to go home.”
Vukmir, who has been active in Republican politics in Wisconsin for more than two decades and has spent much of that time in the state legislature, had been a favorite to win the convention’s endorsement. Her campaign sought to frame the vote as a crucial expression of the will of the GOP.
“The heart of our party, our conservative grass roots, sent a deafening message today that it is time to unify behind Leah Vukmir and focus on the task of defeating Tammy Baldwin,” Jess Ward, Vukmir’s campaign manager said in a statement obtained by The Hill. “It’s time for Kevin Nicholson to respect the will of the people that have delivered Gov. [Scott] Walker and Sen. [Ron] Johnson into office time and time again, and leave the race.”
Former White House chief of staff Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusMeadows joins White House facing reelection challenges Trump names Mark Meadows as new chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s job security looks strong following impeachment MORE, a Wisconsin native, returned to the state Saturday to encourage delegates to back Vukmir in an effort to take on incumbent Democrat Baldwin in the fall.
“We don’t have to spend millions of dollars fighting each other, or allow millions of dollars from outside of Wisconsin to come in here and tear our candidates apart. We have a proven conservative, Christian, principled, Republican — lifelong, I might add — candidate right now who can actually beat liberal Tammy Baldwin. And her name is Leah Vukmir,” he said. “There is no reason to make this Republican Party race for Senate complicated. Leah Vukmir did everything she said — never turned her back on the conservative movement. Leah Vukmir is everything we can ask for in a public servant.”
Nicholson’s camp, meanwhile, showed videos from Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senate headed for late night vote amid standoff over lands bill Hillicon Valley: Facebook employees speak up against content decisions | Trump’s social media executive order on weak legal ground | Order divides conservatives MORE (R-Utah) on Saturday ahead of the vote, with the conservative lawmakers stressing the Marine veteran’s status as a political outsider.
Nicholson’s camp had brushed aside the importance of the vote down the stretch as the political newcomer stressed his bonafides as an outsider. His campaign argued before the vote that anything less than a blowout for Vukmir was a failure, while suggesting that the endorsement wasn’t representative of the broader GOP electorate.
Vukmir and Nicholson are battling ahead of the Aug. 14 primary for the right to take on Baldwin. The general election race has already attracted millions in outside spending as it has the potential to be one of the bigger battlegrounds of 2018.
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